Piercing The Stigma of Psychiatric Hospitals

We all have heard, in some form or another, the horrors that occur within the walls of the psychiatric unit of the hospital. Whether it be the straitjacket that people wear as they are strapped into a stretcher, carried off to procedures; or the crazy people that scream all day and are only quieted with a sleep-inducing sedative; or it being the abuse that the staff puts the patients through on a routine basis – it is enough to make the strongest person afraid.

Piercing The Stigma

I knew I needed help for quite some time. I felt that I couldn’t handle the darkness I was going through, the hatred that I had of being in my own body, and the hopelessness that the situation will never change. It was only a matter of time before I would do something that would break everyone around me. However, I couldn’t imagine how I could receive the help if the hospital experience would be so traumatic in itself.

Finally, I decided that I needed to put my fears to the side and ask to go to the hospital, because in my head, deep down, I knew I wasn’t safe. I am happy to say now that my fears were dead wrong. I probably made the best decision in my entire lifespan of 19 years when I called up my mom and said the words, “I need help. I think I need to go to the hospital.” The only parts that I regret are not asking for help sooner and being scared of the “threat” of hospitalization.

Ask For Help

Saying the words “I need help” takes so much vulnerability from a person. You don’t know what will happen; you are putting yourself on the line. But sometimes it is so important to take that step and ask for the help you deserve. I did it. I asked for help and went to a place where I could feel safe and take care of myself.

At the hospital, the daily schedule was mundane, filled with relaxation and groups – far from the horror stories society told me to believe. I simply got a break. The most helpful part for me was being with people who understood, who have been in my place before and knew what I was going through. My doctors adjusted my medication and I focused on getting outpatient care for when I came out. It was the exact thing that I needed and may very well have saved my life.

I’m not advocating that everyone who has gone through mental illness will or should go through the hospital. But sometimes there is a need for it, and when it is needed, it may be the very thing to save the person’s life.

Searching For Empathy

We all know the statistic: Approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have mental illness right now. 1 in 5. That is a huge percentage. However, it also means that 4 out of 5 don’t. As much as our family and friends may want to help and understand, it is impossible to understand this type of pain if you haven’t gone through it yourself. Empathy can only truly happen when one can put themselves in another person’s situation.

This lack of true empathy creates a barrier of loneliness. It is so important to know you aren’t alone and are in no way “messed up” or “crazy” for feeling the way you do. The problem is that the stigma is so strong society silently shames the ones that need to ask for help in order to heal. People simply cannot stand up to the false narrative and reveal that they may need to go to the psychiatric ward.

I am one of 20%. I know how alone mental illness can feel, like no one can possibly understand or even want to understand. Despite this, it’s so important to be open and share when you aren’t okay, so you can get the support and connection you deserve. It is okay not to be okay. I am not going to be done yelling until the world is okay with that.

I’ve Had Enough With The Fear

I am tired of having to hide where I go when I disappear off the planet for a while because I am in a psych ward.

I am tired of being scared to walk outside now that I’m back from the hospital because if someone bumps into me who noticed I was gone, they would question me and force me to lie.

I am tired of worrying about getting married.

I am tired of the feeling that I am alienated from the rest of the world because I have been in a psych ward.

And I am tired of living in a society that isolates those with their stigma-based shame, even though being a patient in the hospital for mental illness should be just as normal as receiving treatment for diabetes or cancer.

You Matter

Due to the way mental illness is portrayed, people are not able to get the part of treatment that is so essential: connection. I am not going to be done yelling until everyone knows that they matter and are worthy of help and love.

Always remember that you matter. There are people that can and want to understand you. Please don’t stop searching until you find them.

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2 Comments on “Piercing The Stigma of Psychiatric Hospitals

  1. I am a mental health patient myself and will simply say that you nailed it.
    Keep it up and remember that we are a special group of people that the others just can’t understand. Be aware that we were chosen for some serious work in this world, and G-d believes in our capacity to persevere. Be proud of that.

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